React—Imminent Disaster—or Not?

by Una A. Slater

As positive and upbeat as I tend to be regarding others and their lives, I am continually appalled/mildly amused, and sort of troubled, by my tendency to immediately think great tragedy is about to befall me. I present to you an example of the way I react to simple everyday events:

Healthy Reaction
My Reaction
Dog whines in the middle of the night “Must be having a bad dream.” “Dear Jesus, she’s hemorrhaging.”
Phone rings at 6 a.m. “Inconsiderate jerk!” “Someone’s dead.”
Get an email from boss “Probably checking in for an update.” “He’s gonna yell at me for something.”
Annoying comment from Steve “Hey, he is who he is. Nothing to take personally.” “Off with his head. The time has come for dissolution!”
Haven’t talked to a friend for several weeks “We’ll catch up; I know we’re both busy.” “She hates me. I’m a bad friend and she’s moved on.”
Impulse purchase of shoes “Oh well. No more crazy purchases for a bit.” “Now I am headed for financial ruin.”
See a cute couple walking down the street “Ah, sweet. Hope they’re happy.” “I will be alone for all eternity.”
Doorbell rings at 2 p.m. “Maybe a delivery?” “It’s an annoying distraction that will take up too much time.”
Truck window won’t operate “Better have it serviced. Glad I can afford the repair. I’m sure it’s not a big deal.” “Great! The entire vehicle is a rolling hazard. They’re gonna tell me to junk it. I got a lemon.”

I wonder if part of this is that “oldest child” syndrome. You know—your parents throw all the worry and obsession into you because you’re the firstborn, so you develop this over-hyped sense of pending disaster based on your parents reacting strongly to every single stimulus that enters your life. The problem with this great tendency towards thinking the absolute worst is that I react to things that may actually be relatively small with great force. Kinda like using a jackhammer to kill a gnat.

This reminds me of my Dad. Totally and fully. His approach to healing during my youth was: “Something hurts on your hand? Chop off that limb, cauterize the wound and get ta HEALING!” We both laugh about this now of course and realize it’s utterly ridiculous; but how do you stop going all Rambo on situations in your life?

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I spend great amounts of time trying to figure out how to best approach a conversation I sense coming in the future. I was concerned about the level of outrage I might bring to it. I know I’ve been a jackhammer in the past when I might have learned and benefited more by just not reacting to what I’ve heard or seen. By letting listening do the driving.

My friends response: “You have your solution. You said it yourself. Don’t react. Just let the conversation unfold. Try listening instead of forging in to immediately fix what you think might be broken. Perhaps nothing is broken at all.”

The simplest notion. Just don’t react. Observe.

Can you imagine the type of energy I can preserve with this alien notion? Observation? It seems so passive. Anyway, that’s a new suit I’m trying on these days. It’s been in the closet for years. Perhaps it will fit now.

© 2012 Cheryl L. Hardy All Rights Reserved

About the Author

Una Slater is full-time Marketing Director for a Recruitment Software company and an aspiring freelance writer. She currently is working on the completion of her first novel.She has been published professionally as a columnist reviewing trends in her industry, and conducts workshops on effective marketing in recruitment while continuing to expand her fascination with contemporary fiction as her career permits.

Originally from Philadelphia, Cheryl is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in South Austin, Texas with her dog, Mecca, and a big appetite for personal adventure.